Can You Use a Spotting Scope for Astronomy

Over recent years, more and more people choose to use spotting scope due to its portability. In fact, this device can provide the users clear images and is much cheaper than a traditional scope. In general, a spotting scope is a durable scope. It is often used for different purposes such as hunting, bird watching, and even disgiscoping. Furthermore, you can either use it with or without a tripod. This is very comfortable for me to observe the nature. Also, it is one of the reasons why I want to use spotting scope for astronomy.

Can I Use a Spotting Scope for Astronomy

A spotting scope can be specifically for observing airborne subjects or landbound during the day. However, it is not everything a spotting scope can do. In fact, the design of the glass is basically similar to a refractor telescope. Therefore, even when there is no real reason why, you can totally use a spotting scope for stargazing as well as basic astronomy.

Why Use It for Astronomy

Now, you already know that a spotting scope can be a good alternative to a telescope in many cases. To be honest, available high- quality spotting scope can provide you even a better result and more pleasure compared to a poor- telescope. That’s why I suggest you buy a good spotting scope instead of a very cheap telescope. Thus, you can use it for hunting, observing nature and of course, astronomy.

Here are the more specific reasons why you should use a spotting scope for astronomy:

Astrophotography

Obviously, a professional astro imager is better with a specialized astrograph. The manufacturer designed them to provide a flat field over the full size of the imaging sensor. On the contrary, an amateur astronomer who likes to photograph with his own visual telescope can be better with a spotting scope.

 the light and short design of a spotting scope will definitely make minimal demands on a tracking mount

Image source: The Telescope Review

Hunters use spotting scopes widely for the purpose of digiscoping. Additionally, there is a wide selection of adapters to fit perfectly any camera to any scope. Furthermore, the light and short design of a spotting scope will definitely make minimal demands on a tracking mount.

Correct Image Erectors

It is obvious that a correct image view is essential. Because it can allow objects like a bird in a landscape, you can find more quickly with eyepieces with low magnification and wide field. In addition, it can also allow numbers as well as text. Thus, you can read more easily. When it comes to astronomical use, the benefits apply just the same. In details, finding an object from a visible reference point in the sky is much easier for you. The image is neither reversed nor inverted.

The rugged advantage

It is common for a spotting scope to have dust, water, and fog- proof housings. They are ruggedized to withstand shocks, bumps and scrapes for field use. The point is not every telescope’s user observes from the protection of an observatory.  In fact, most of them are likely to set up their own telescope on their backyard or lawn.

Specifically, if there is a wind, even a little wind, a delicate astronomical instrument is much more vulnerable and in danger by dust. Furthermore, other hostile environmental factors like humidity can completely damage your instrument if you unseal or protect improperly.

Remember that any use in field generally brings with it the risk of bumps, knocks and even drops. The ruggedized, waterproof, shock- resistant, dust- proof, and fog- proof spotting scope can make the field use easier.

Magnification

It is clear that small refractors are very important for giving wide fields of view. Magnifications between 26 x and 40 x can provide the optimum exit pupil diameter of about 3 mm. You should select the eyepiece to offer the users the widest field of view in this range.

Magnification

Image source: Simon Trewin

As you can see, a spotting scope can give more magnification than a hand- held binocular. Therefore, in many cases, you can use this device for astronomy as an alternative to a telescope.

Spotting Scope for Astronomy: How to use

The eyepiece angle

They connect a telescope for astronomy with an angled eyepiece, generally 90º to the barrel. Remember that this is not by happenstance or accident. In fact, it is done in order to give you a more comfortable viewing angle. On the other hand, a spotting scope is usually angled at 45 º or straight. As it is mainly for looking level, downwards and at shallow angles to the sky.  Therefore, this device is not designed only for comfortable viewing high into the sky.

Thanks to this feature, it is necessary for you to place your spotting scope on a tall tripod, or you can place yourself lower than the ground in order to obtain a comfortable view. If you have intention to use your spotting scope for stargazing or astronomy, I suggest you get a model with 45º viewing angle as opposed to a straight model.

The objective lens size and aperture

Overall, the larger the aperture is, the more light your scope can capture. In details, the aperture is the diameter of the objective lens, and it usually isn’t critical for you to use during the daytime. However, it is essential for your nighttime use.

The objective lens

Image source: The Best Spotting Scopes & Spotting Scope Reviews Website

According to my experiences, a spotting scope which comes with an objective lens of at least 65 mm or 70 mm is not very effective for professional astronomical use, but the best choice for basic use.

Budget accordingly

Keep in mind that using a spotting scope for your nighttime use, for examples, basic astronomy and stargazing means using the device at the extreme limits of what it is capable of. According to this, you may need to budget more for the spotting scope. Getting a specialized scope associated with better coatings, and high quality optics. Specifically, we highly recommend for you to get high quality glass.

Additionally, if you can find a spotting scope which uses extra low ED glass, that will be a better choice. Why? Because it can produce a brighter image with higher quality and offer you less color fringing around the objects’ edges.

In conclusion

I’m just an amateur astronomer. From my experiences, a spotting scope is the best for night time stargazing as well as viewing heavenly body close to the Earth. If the conditions are favorable, you can also use to spot planets. Nonetheless, a traditional telescope is still better than a spotting scope when it comes to viewing other heavenly bodies in the sky.

If you have to choose between the two devices, just remember the 80/ 20 thumb rule. According to this thumb rule, if you have to spend 80 % of your time on viewing terrestrial objects and the other 20 % on watching stars, you’d better go for a spotting scope.

But, if you are looking for the scope to perform various functions like electronic tracking, studying deep astronomy or the ability to get sync to your computer. Then you should choose a conventional telescope. In short, you need to base your decision depending on the way you will use the scope.

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